The world's largest economy added a mere 36,000 jobs last month, far lower than forecast, as the severe winter weather weighed on the rate of job creation, official figures showed last night
Despite the meagre pace of job creation, the US unemployment rate fell to 9 per cent, the lowest level since April 2009.
The disparity is down to the different Labour Department surveys used to generate the reports.
A survey of households showed that more than 600,000 Americans were employed in January, pushing down the jobless rate.
But a poll of businesses painted a less encouraging picture. Economists had expected the economy to create 145,000 jobs last month.
The figures showed "continued progress", said Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisors, but he added: "It's not fast enough; the President's the first to say that."
Dan Cook at IG Markets in Chicago said he did not "even know what to think, to be honest," adding: "Last month we saw a drop in the unemployment rate that was sizeable; now it has [dropped] down to 9 per cent, yet we only added 36,000 jobs."